Austrian shopping centre developer and operator Spar European Shopping Centers (SES) has delayed the opening of its latest scheme in Ljubljana, Slovenia, in what SES CEO Marcus Wild has described as a 'bizarre and financially extraordinary situation for the shopping partners and ourselves as the operator'.
Work on the €150 mln scheme, which will host 80 shops, restaurants and service providers across 32,000 m2, had already completed on time in the capital's Siska neighbourhood, with Aleja due to open its doors on 19 March, creating a total of 700 jobs.
However, Slovenia entered lockdown mode at midnight on 19 March, with the government prohibiting public gatherings and ordering that only essential retailers could stay open - including grocery stores, pharmacies, petrol stations, banks, post offices, cleaning services and car repair shops.
The centre's grand opening had already been put on ice by that stage, although Wild admitted that 'the crisis came very quickly and took us all by surprise'.
He added: 'With Aleja in Slovenia, a finished, brand new centre and major investment is currently in a "deep sleep". This is a bizarre and financially extraordinary situation for the shopping partners and ourselves as the operator.
'Despite existing contracts, we have decided as a natural first measure to defer the entire prescription of the inventory rent for our Slovenian shop partners from the day of the planned opening until the actual opening - whose date is still open - in order to help the entrepreneurs in their liquidity quickly and unbureaucratically.'
Wild said that SES was 'in the same boat as our partners' but said that his team were working with the retailers to do 'everything we can to overcome this critical situation together'.
SES already operates two other shopping centres in Ljubljana, plus centres in the Slovenian cities of Celje and Maribor. Wild confirmed that mandated closures would 'also affect the existing businesses'.
He also called for a rapid resolution to the sector's most pressing problems in the light of the Covid-19 crisis.
'It is important to limit the consequences for the entire real estate industry and all related sectors (banks, service providers, suppliers, construction, etc.),' Wild said in a statement.
'There are also proposals to this effect from the Shopping Center Association and the trade association to the government, such as for example a structural development contribution for the maintenance of the stationary infrastructure to the inventory providers, a subsidy for depreciation on unsaleable goods and urgently the offensive taxation of online retail sales.'